How Do You Solve a Problem Like SIFF?
“Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter,” about a “Fargo”-obsessed Japanese girl who travels to Minnesota, is one of the films I'll be seeing at SIFF this year.
How do you solve a problem like the Seattle International Film Festival? Two-hundred and seventy-six movies from around the world and you've heard of maybe five of them. And you have four weeks. Go.
My friend Vinny simply figures out which country he doesn't know well and/or wants to know more about, and simply goes to see its movies. This year's theme for him is apparently Eastern Europe. He's going to see “Quod Erat Demonstrandum” from Romania, “The Japanese Dog” from Romania, “Tangerines” from Estonia, “Clownwise” from the Czech Republic, and “40 Days of Silence” from Uzbekistan. Not a bad strategy. Unless you wind up with dogs and clowns and Latin. But if you go to any of these movies, say hi. Vinny's nothing if not friendly.
Me, I tend to look through the SIFF guide, pick out what's interesting, and then check out its IMDb rating before buying anything.
Yeah, this can be problematic, too. “The Case Against 8,” for example, a documentary about the Prop 8 battle in California and the fight for marriage equality, is on the docket, but its IMDb rating is 5.2 Why? Homophobes and right-wing nuts. So you parse out that lot. Basically you look for something in the 7s. About 7.5 is nice. Above 8? You grow suspicious. That's a bit too high. Is it a TV show? Yes, it is. Below 6.5 and you grow wary again. Too low. Anything in the 5s, unless it's “The Case Against 8” this year or the Wikileaks doc last year, you avoid. Or I do.
Easy movies, too, get high IMDb ratings. Crowd pleasers. Difficult movies, like Terrence Malick's movies, less so. You just need to figure out which difficult movies are your kind of difficult movies. I guess that's the battle.
I wound up not going to “8” this year because it'll be on HBO soon enough (sorry) and because I already interviewed its principles in January. I also didn't get tickets for movies I really want to see—“The Congress,” “Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above,” “Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger”—because schedules conflicted. So it goes.
These were what I wound up with, sorted by IMDb rating:
|The Trip to Italy||UK||8.2|
|Muse of Fire||UK||8.1|
|In Order of Disappearance||Norway||7.8|
|The Bit Player||Philippines||7.6|
|The Last of the Unjust||France/Austria||7.4|
|Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter||Japan||7.4|
|The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared||Sweden||7.1|
|The Better Angels||USA||6.8|
|Our Sunhi||South Korea||6.8|
|Charlie Chaplin shorts||USA||n/a|
To be honest, some of my choices simply related to proximity. “Chinese Puzzle,” for example, will be showing in a place and time that's easy for me. So why not?
But it's all a crapshoot and SIFF doesn't make it any easier. Why not, on its website, give us a sortable table of every movie in the program with relevant data? Right? So you can at least sort by title and country and genre? Wouldn't that help?
With the schedule this year, they included top picks from its half dozen programmers, which is interesting, but it's only helpful if we know what that programmer liked in the past. If, for example, the programmer says their favorite recent SIFF movies have included “The First Grader” and “Frances Ha,” well, they're not for me. If, on the other hand, they liked “Restrepo,” “A Hijacking” and “The Act of Killing,” then I'm theirs. So wouldn't that make sense? To include that? SIFF?
Last year I lucked out. The year before, less so. This year? Who knows? Crapshoot.
Oh, I also have the gala pass. So that includes, among others, the Jimi Hendrix biopic (at the opening, tonight, open bar), and Richard Linklater's “Boyhood.”
Fuck, I'm going to be busy.
What about you? How do you solve a problem like SIFF?
SIFF also needs help with their posters.